The end of March means a couple of things for me:
a) No more shoveling until the inevitable “Act of God” blizzard in April.
b) Any last-ditch birthday celebrations from the week before, because when you really think about it, a birthday kind of lasts a whole year. So taking a week to celebrate is actually very reasonable.
c) The long-anticipated arrival of spring break!
Trust me, I will not do what I did with winter break and expect everything to turn straight around. One week of rest and relaxation does not imply a complete rework of attitude, revamp of mindset, and renewal of motivation. A week without hurtling terminally toward the end of a marking period, however, does do wonders for mind and body. Yesterday, a lady at a health fair I attended eyed me closely as I browsed her baskets of loose-leaf teas. “I’m sorry, I just can’t stop staring,” she admitted. “I’ve never seen someone with your complexion before. There’s just… nothing there.”
They say that about my brain, too, I thought, but because I am an adult with two college degrees, self-control, and a therapist that reminds me to say kind things to myself more often, I said, “There’s something there!”
We’re getting it. Slowly.
For our last professional development day before break, the assistant principal reminded me that spring is a wonderful time for recovery from the heyday that is school, because the month of March is rarely the relaxing stroll into sunshine and wildflowers that we’d like it to be.
She presented our staff with a metaphor: consider the glass, half filled with water. Some will say it is half empty, and others will say it is half full. Either way, consider the weight of it. Your glass is so, so heavy.
Now set it down.
For a moment, set down your glass and consider what it is filled with. Reflect on how you hold your glass. Perhaps think of how you consider it: is it filled with great and weighty things, or one thousand tiny grievances that prick you like so many pins?
This made me stop and take a breath, and it’s been pretty tough to get me to stop with how this month has been. We often set our goals for the coming weeks, months, and years when we are at our most refreshed and optimistic. These times are not the hard ones: we should be planning for when our glasses are heaviest, reflect on why they are so heavy, and consider just what we can do about it.
So, for my spring break, I’ve set about to do some spring cleaning. What better way to do that than with reading?
I’d like to share with you my spring reading list, my tiny effort to reflect and set myself up for a more positive transition through the end of the school year into summertime. This is by no means an exhaustive list, just a few titles I have picked up and always meant to read, but just haven’t, because I’ve been too busy balancing my glass in both hands.
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Here is my spring reading list. I’m part of the way through a couple of these, and others are completely new. We will be going through this journey of growth together!
1. Mindset by Carol S. Dweck, PhD ☆ Buy it!
A recommendation by the fabulous administrator mentioned above. My fellow teachers and I have been book-clubbing this one since October. Our purpose is to analyze how we could encourage a growth mindset in our classrooms, but as a first-year teacher, this book did wonders for me as a young professional as well.
The premise is that a large part of your success is owed to your “mindset”, which is either “growth” or “fixed”. “Growth mindset” folks see challenges as opportunities to learn and recognize that their intelligence and abilities aren’t limited to where they are at the present moment. “Fixed mindset” folks, then, tend to see mistakes as failures, and look for the easy wins rather than what will genuinely help them improve.
A recommendation: don’t take this book as gospel. Some of Dweck’s examples are honestly unsettling, such as the second-grader who gleefully asks for more challenges to improve himself. Nuh-uh. Freaky. I also had to put the book down during the relationships section wherein she recommended that we forgive all exes and recognize what we can learn from them. As an abuse survivor, I had to have a sit-down with myself and parse that one out. The core of the book is good, however, and having such tools as “growth” and “fixed” has done wonders for my recovery journaling. I recognized in myself the destructive need to “prove” myself as a newcomer to my profession and my community, and how I tacked each and every mistake to my identity as a failure. Overall, Mindset is not to be taken as gospel, but it’s a great foundation for any positivity spring-cleaning.
2. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown ☆ Buy it!
Recommended by a dear friend of mine and one of my favorite podcasts, My Favorite Murder, Brown has made an incredible impact on the self-help landscape, especially for women. Brown’s social work background led her to study vulnerability: how we conceptualize it, how society teaches us to internalize it, and in particular, how it impacts our self-concept. We strive to be as invulnerable as possible and cover our perceived weaknesses with something like shame. As a utility-obsessed person who has only recently began tackling her problems instead of hiding from them, this idea really spoke to me.
I’m about halfway through this one, and I’ve also recently started Rising Strong, which focuses on vulnerability in the context of recovery. So far, I would recommend Daring as a foundation and Rising if recovery is a topic of relevance for you.
3. The Secret by Rhonda Byrne ☆ Buy it!
Before you say it: I know. It’s gonna be fine.
I have the most fabulous hair stylist with roots in New York, California, and my tiny little northern town, and an aesthetic sense better than just about anyone I know. Each appointment is a sick haircut with free life-empowering conversation, and coffee on the side. It’s really, really magical. Besides these books, my wellness tip for the day: get a stylist you’re really into!
During my last visit, we were discussing life, the universe, and everything as per usual, and she recommended a killer combination for finding your place in this great, cold void: The Secret, and Stephen Hawking.
We were all up in the “mindset” lingo when she told me that last year, her reading list was The Secret and The Grand Design, which essentially say the same thing. Successful people visualize their success even before it happens. They go through life with an expectation of a positive outcome, and rationalize negative outcomes as steps toward the next great thing. There is no waiting for something good to happen: smart sciencey people tell us that all the universe needs is the right pieces put together to create something spectacular.
Like Mindset, take examples in The Secret with a grain of salt, and don’t expect it to make you rich quick. But do expect implementing these small changes to make positive differences in your life!
Pair it with some Hawking… see what happens!
4. The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes ☆ Buy it!
Another MFM pick, recommended by one of my favorite content creators and personal heroes, Karen Kilgariff. This book is a brilliant read and perhaps the best-written of all on this list. There is a reason why we love Rhimes and all of the stories she creates! She shares an intimate view into her creative life, and how she dealt with stress by just saying yes to everything.
Disclaimer for this one: Shonda Rhimes has more money than you do. Definitely more than I do. But she knows that, and does a decent job of acknowledging this privilege when she discusses some of the things she gets to say yes to.
Year is a brilliant application those same research-supported concepts presented in Daring. It’s premise and practice of those “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” motivational posters. Again, all things in moderation: apply to your life as you deem appropriate.
5. Warrior of the Light by Paulo Coelho ☆ Buy it!
Finally, a personal recommendation: literally anything by Paulo Coelho. The Alchemist is his most famous work, but Warrior is my favorite.
Coelho tells his stories in the form of fables and aphorisms, masterfully intertwining ancient myth with modern relevance. Warrior is a quick read by the word count, but each page drops heavy as stone. It’s a “take a walk after finishing” sort of book.
While this book has been incredibly influential in my life– Coelho quotes adorn my desk at school– I also use certain pages as writing prompts for my students and for my own practice. This is a versatile number that will stay with you for years.
Perhaps give it a read at the end of spring, because you will have a lot of walking to do come summertime!
What are your spring reading picks? Let me know in the comments!